Business analysis has become a core part of business management today. Business analysis consultants are in high demand, and the unique skill sets they bring by way of fusing data analysis techniques with business management and strategy are fearsome tools to have onboard.
Business analysis consultants, or management analysts as the Bureau of Labor Statistics labels them, are looking at an 11% growth rate in job outlook by 2031, a figure that far exceeds the average and makes the profession among the best fields to enter for at least the next decade.
With these numbers made public, it’s no wonder that youngsters agonizing over career prospects latch on to the idea of pursuing business analysis as a career, given the safety and job outlook, but as with any decision, one must be fully informed on what they are signing up for before it’s too late to turn around.
And so, our business analysis consulting experts at Expertise Accelerated came together to pool their experiences and views on the profession into this comprehensive guide, to help the new generation find their path and figure out if the business analysis is truly the best fit for them as a profession. This article will be discussing what exactly business analysis consultants are and what they do, the skills and education expected of them, and the responsibilities they will take up as professionals. We will also talk briefly about the salary and benefits typically offered by the business landscape for these services.
Table of Contents
A business analysis consultant, or business analyst for short, as defined by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), is an “agent of change.”
What they mean by this is that business analysts are the ones responsible for spurring change in a business. Basically, business analysts are tasked with handling all of the business’ collected data, and by means of sophisticated data analysis techniques creating a breakdown report of the business’ performance and numbers. Now his data doesn’t just tell us how well the business is doing, but it shows us where the business is going right and where it’s messing up. Maybe some business processes are unoptimized and are costing the business good money. Perhaps some business costs can be reduced by opting for more affordable alternatives.
Whatever the case may be, a shrewd business analyst will be able to tell how the business needs to change to boost performance, and also develop a strategy to enact said change in the business.
All of that sounds fine and dandy on paper, but in reality, becoming a business analyst is not easy. This is not a profession that can be adopted by just anyone.
It may sound cheesy, but the fact is that you do need the right attitude and mindset to succeed as a business analyst. The key to making it in this profession is being inquisitive and open to learning new things. You must be willing to question the existing system if you want to be an “agent of change”. Otherwise, all the data analysis in the world is worthless if all you get from it is how things are, and not what they could be.
One of the major skills that aspiring business analysis consultants must cultivate and hone is the art of communication and negotiation. You cannot bring about change in an organization without being able to facilitate communication and negotiate among the management to come to a good solution.
Think about it, after analyzing the data and singling out all the problems in the business, the next step is to fix those problems. But who decides how the fixing will be done? And how do you know that those “problems” are not really problems because there is a reason that things are that way?
You learn to answer these questions through communication with the business’ staff and gleaning details about the business that cannot be found and quantified in an Excel spreadsheet. Data analysis does not just stop at the numbers and takes the human element into account, and any good business analysis consultant will tell you the same.
When it comes to decision-making, while it’s not the job of the business analysis consultant to make the final decision, they play the biggest role in helping upper management come to a consensus by mediating and facilitating the conversation and negotiating among the concerned parties to find a middle-ground solution that satisfies everybody. This is an especially relevant skill when working for larger corporations, as they have a board of directors to negotiate with and make a decision.
We have spoken before about the importance of project managers in a business, and in the case of business analysis consultants, the point remains the same. Business analysis consultants need to be able to manage the change they want to enact in the business. Leadership qualities and the ability to plan and execute change in parts of the business are integral for any capable professional in the role.
Other than the more personality-oriented and social skills needed to be a good business analysis consultant, you also need to have a solid grasp of the fundamental technological software used worldwide by professionals i.e., Microsoft Office.
As a data analyst, your primary duty is to record, compile and convert data into meaningful information. You need to be able to operate Microsoft Office and other fundamental tools to be able to effectively do the job.
While this may seem like a laughable point today to a lot of young readers, the truth is that many youngsters are unaware of the versatility and functionality packed into these programs that we use daily. Being certified and proficient in MS Office is a valuable asset to have in your arsenal, and shows on your resume that you do not need to be taught the basics when applying for a job, even if you are just dipping your toes into the profession.
Needless to say, as with most careers in the world, having a good education in the field is a requirement today. While there is no specific degree requirement for the job and any bachelor’s degree holder can get in, there are certainly some courses that give you a better shot than others.
For example, a degree in history is not as helpful on your resume as one in economics, statistics, data analysis, communications, business management, logistics, etc. Having a more business-oriented education is a great stepping stone to making a name for yourself as a business analysis consultant.
On top of having one such relevant degree, you can also opt into online courses for the other required skills. This is the age of YouTube, and education is at your fingertips if you are willing to put in the effort. There are tons of free resources available online to begin learning. Whether it’s data analysis, financial analysis, business management, or any number of other skills you are lacking, you can always make up the difference by learning online and getting certified by a reputable authority.
While a degree looks great on the resume and gives you an edge, we understand that many US citizens simply cannot afford to enroll and make it through university for any number of reasons. But even without a degree, if you work hard and polish the necessary skills, you can get your foot in the door. It may take more effort and time, and you may have to try for internship programs and such to dip your toes into the industry, but the fact remains that there is always room for you in the industry, so long as you are capable enough to claim that room.
The first thing a business analysis consultant is typically tasked with doing is evaluating the entire business and its processes. After all, you’re getting paid to tell the entrepreneurs where they are going wrong.
Evaluation generally entails drawing up the workflow of the business’ various functions and their internal processes. For example, take the accounting function. The accounting function is an integral part of the business, and hosts under it a variety of sub-functions such as bookkeeping, accounts payable, accounts receivable, auditing, taxation, and so on. As the business analysis consultant on the job, you will take each of these functions and break them down into their technical processes, and by repeating this process across the business, end up with a clear picture of how the business operates.
All of the business’ functions work in harmony to reach the end goal: making a profit. So, by drawing a workflow map of this harmonized performance, you essentially gain a birds-eye view of the business’ internal workings. By supplementing this map of the business’ workflow with the collected data of the business, you can deduce where and how the business is lacking and needs change.
The next big responsibility that falls to you as a business analysis consultant is the “consultant” part of the job title.
This is where your real worth will be measured. After evaluating the business and figuring out where change needs to be enacted, you have to now strategize on the nature of the change required and the logistics of how it will be implemented. You cannot simply tell entrepreneurs where the problems are and demand they fix them, you must be the one who also provides a solution, preferably several, to a problem you identify. As a consultant, you are there for the upper management to consult on why and how your suggested changes should be implemented.
After consulting on the matter and finalizing a plan of action for change in the business, you will also be responsible for getting the ball rolling. This is where those communication skills we mentioned before should come in handy for procuring the material and human resources needed to implement your suggested strategy in the business.
According to Glassdoor, business analysis consultants make an average of around $83,855 annually. Keep in mind that reaching such a salary is far from reality when starting out. Only after building years of experience in the profession and cultivating a robust resume will this number become a reality for you.
Going into it as a fresh hire, you should expect about a quarter of this figure realistically. The fact of the matter is that you will first be hired by small businesses who can afford to take a risk with a fresh candidate, and by virtue of you being fresh will also likely hire you for minimum wage or slightly more knowing you are in it for gathering experience at this stage. The start may be rough, but that’s true for every profession today so no point complaining about it.
Another option for you as an aspiring business analysis consultant is to try and get on board with a business analyst outsourcing service and try to make it a remote international professional.
Remote talent is in large demand today, and no matter where you are from, if you are good at the job, the global marketplace is a great place to look for a job.
Expertise Accelerated, for example, is a Connecticut-based outsourcing service provider that deals with providing remote business analysis consultants to US businesses. Similarly, if you are in the US, you can try to get into the European market through an outsourcing firm.
The point is that opportunity is all around you, whether as an in-house business analysis consultant or one hired through a business analyst outsourcing service. As long as you are informed about the professional demands and obligations and willing to put in the effort, you will be rewarded. Best of luck!